Sonya C. by and through Olivas v. Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind

743 F. Supp. 700 (1990)

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Sonya C. by and through Olivas v. Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind

United States District Court for the District of Arizona
743 F. Supp. 700 (1990)

  • Written by Alexander Hager-DeMyer, JD

Facts

Sonya C. (plaintiff) was born in Arizona to two Mexican citizens living outside the United States. Sonya was hearing-impaired and considered disabled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), formerly known as the Education of the Handicapped Act or Education for All Handicapped Children Act. At age 12, Sonya was sent to live with the Olivases, family friends who lived in Ajo, Arizona. The Olivases attempted to enroll Sonya in Ajo public schools but were informed that there were no suitable programs for Sonya’s needs. The school officials recommended that Sonya attend the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB) (defendant). The Olivases were told that they would need to become legal guardians of Sonya for her to attend the ASDB and to ensure that a responsible person in the United States could make welfare decisions for Sonya. Nobody at the Ajo schools or the ASDB informed the Olivases of any tuition requirements for attending the specialized school. ASDB policy required guardianship orders to establish residency, and the school assumed that the child’s residency matched that of the guardian. Once Sonya had a guardian, she was entitled to free special education under the IDEA and began attending the ASDB tuition-free. However, the Arizona attorney general’s office introduced legislation requiring tuition payments for cases in which guardianships were created for the primary purpose of circumventing tuition. The ASDB concluded that Sonya’s guardianship was obtained to avoid tuition. The ASDB informed the Olivases that Sonya owed payment for the upcoming year and back payment for Sonya’s previous school years. The Olivases claimed that this decision violated Sonya’s due-process rights under the IDEA, and an impartial hearing officer agreed. The ASDB appealed, and an appeals hearing officer reversed the decision. The Olivases requested judicial review of the case in federal district court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Marquez, J.)

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